Should balloon boy's family pay for search?

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - The balloon chase brought a huge response from law enforcement and even the national guard - which begs the question: Who should get the bill for all that equipment and manpower?

With practically the whole country riveted to the video of a runaway balloon thought to carry a six-year-old boy, a small army of rescue workers and chase vehicles joined in the effort. Only to find the boy was safe in the family garage attic. Now, with some suspicion that the father Richard Heene, may have contrived all or part of it. East Texans say someone should be responsible.

"Well, I think he needs to take responsibility for his own actions as you or I would have to, and if that included paying the bill, pay the bill," said Pat Goldston.

"He ought to pay for the emergency services or whatever," said David Kirkindoll. "Somebody's going to pay for it. Taxpayers are going to pay for it if he doesn't."

Tens-of-thousands of dollars were spent; a national guard helicopter alone cost $4,600 an hour to operate.

But, law enforcement and other emergency agencies are quick to point out that it is not their job to determine the validity of a 9-1-1 call, they respond to every 9-1-1 as a legitimate emergency.

Longview police and fire units take hundreds of calls every week, and some are unfounded.

"All our calls coming from 9-1-1 are emergency calls," said Michael Pruitt, the Longview fire chief. "We do not do any type of process of prioritizing because all our calls are emergency."

"That's what they get paid to do, do they were just doing their job," said Tracie Knight.

Investigators, for now, believe the family's story.

"If he didn't know where his kid was then that's one thing because he didn't know," said Kirkindoll. "I wouldn't mind if the state or county had to pick up the bill."

But, investigators say there are inconsistencies, and more questions are going to be asked.

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